Proper pool maintenance is an essential part of being a pool owner. To properly care for your pool, you should master your pool’s chemistry. We know this might sound scary, especially as you start having flashbacks of high school’s chemistry class – but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! All you need to know about your pool’s chemistry is in this simple explainer we’ve created to help you figure out all the important chemical parameters relevant for keeping your pool clean and safe.
Can you feel the chemistry?
pH is a scale that measures acidity, ranging from 0 – 14. If your pool water measures above 7, then the water is alkaline. If it measures below 7, the water is acidic. A measure of 7 indicates that the water is entirely neutral. Highly acidic water (a measure far below 7) can irritate your eyes and nose and damage certain mechanisms in your pool. Water that is too alkaline (a measure far above 7) can be cloudy, render chlorine efficiency, and irritate the skin. The ideal pH of your pool should be between 7.2 – 7.6. You can adjust the pH using sodium bisulfate (to lower the pH) or sodium carbonate (to raise the pH).
Oxidation-Reduction Potential (ORP) is a measure of the oxidizing properties of sanitizer in the water. In other words, ORP measures the level of sanitizer in your pool. ORP is measured using probes, and the values are expressed as “millivolts” (mV). ORP is often discussed in the context of pH since pH can greatly impact your pool’s ORP level. The chlorine in over basic water that (above 7), can be less effective, lowering its ORP. Warm water (and sunlight) can also have the same effect. The ideal ORP ranges between 650 mV – 750 mV.
Most people are familiar with chlorine and its infamous odor. Beside the smell, chlorine is a critical component in your pool’s chemistry. Chlorine is added to pools to prevent algea growth and to eliminate bacteria and other microorganisms. There are three types of chlorine measures: free chlorine, combined chlorine, and total chlorine. Free chlorine is the chlorine available in your pool to neutralize bacteria and get the job done. This is also the chlorine level that you are likely measuring on a regular basis. Combined chlorine is the product of chlorine neutralizing bacteria, rendering it ineffective. Total chlorine is a measure of both free chlorine and combined chlorine. An acceptable range of free chlorine is 1 – 10 ppm, with an ideal range between 1 -3 ppm.
Cyanuric Acid (CYA) is a stabilizer or conditioner that prevents free chlorine from being destroyed by the sun. By protecting free chlorine, CYA helps minimize the amount of chlorine you need to add to your pool, as it maintains an appropriate level and saves you money. An ideal level of CYA for pools with sun exposure is up to 50 ppm.
Alkalinity is a measure of how stable the water is to chemical changes. Now you are probably thinking of our discussion around pH and a measure of above 7 on the pH scale. Though they might sound similar, alkalinity and pH are two different things. When testing pH, in a scale between 0-14, you determine how acidic or basic the water is. Alkalinity is measured in ppm unites. Alkalinity increasers can help maintain optimum levels of pH, between 7.2 – 7.6, and thus enable chlorine to do its job. An ideal level of alkalinity is between 80 – 120 ppm.
These measures are all important in creating an optimal pool environment and keeping the water clean and safe for use. Learn more about water testing and treatment.